CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan – Some families have a son, daughter, mother or father deployed, but for some, a deployment is a complete family affair.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Latch, the mobility noncommissioned officer in charge, and Army Staff Sgt. Carmelita A. Latch, an integrations noncommissioned officer, both work here in support operations for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. They deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, with the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
Being a married Army couple has both its advantages and disadvantages, but the Latches focus on the positives to help them through their second deployment together.
“There is always somebody there to talk to, which is really helpful,” Stephen said. “It is always nice to have that moral support with you, no matter what. We are permanent battle buddies.”
The couple is together practically 24/7, as they work together and are housed together. They said if they weren’t on the same camp, they would worry about each other constantly.
“There are times when he gets on my nerves because he picks on me,” Carmelita said. “But as far as us getting mad at each other and have to be away from each other, we have never been like that. … We are one of those couples who function better together than apart.”
The couple left three kids back home, who they miss dearly: Loni, 20, Rudy, 19, and Lexi, 11. Loni and Rudy are house-sitting family homes in two different states while Loni attends college full-time in Virginia. Rudy has a full-time job in Texas, and Lexi is staying with her grandparents. Being the youngest, Stephen said, it is hard for her to deal with her dad being away, but she copes well.
“ [Lexi] is a trooper,” he said. “This is the fourth deployment that I have been on since she has been alive. She is getting kind of in the zone now where she understands. … When she does get to missing me a lot, normally I either try send her a necklace or something she can look at -- give her something that she can hold and touch -- and that helps her a lot.”
The two older kids shared their views via email about not having either parent around.
“I love them and miss them more than anyone could know, and I can’t wait to see them again,” wrote Rudy-Allan Kaech Jr., Carmelita’s son. “It gives me a sense of independence living on my own, with the sense of security that they will still be there for me… if I need them.”
“Both of my parents being deployed is very hard,” wrote Loni Marie Kaech, Carmelita’s daughter. “When I need to talk or need anything, they are not here.” She started her message with how having to talk about her parents being gone actually brings her to tears. She also misses the double dates she used to go on with her husband and parents, she said.
The Latch family set goals to make the deployment go by faster. They’ve paid off most of their bills and are saving up for their mid-tour leave. They have also been working on college courses.
“It has been a long deployment,” Carmelita said. “We both started college out here. He has done 20 college credits since we have been out here. I will have finished 25 college credits, and I have also raised my General Technical score out here, so I am excited about that. We have accomplished a lot here, and it has been amazing,” she said.
“I had no college at all, it is a really big step for me,” Stephen said.
Loni is also working toward a degree using Stephen’s Post 9/11 GI Bill. Her mom set an incentive to inspire her: “I promised my daughter I’d take her anywhere in the world when she graduated college,” Carmelita said with a broad smile. “Now she wants to go to Greece, so I am trying to save up for that.”
“A little bit of suffering on our part to get her ahead of life -- I think it is all worth it,” Stephen added.
The couple will leave Afghanistan shortly and plans to enjoy the Texas hunting season. They will keep their eyes on their goals not only for the duration of the deployment, but also for their future.
“My goal is to retire as a sergeant major [and to be] the first female sergeant major of the Army,” Carmelita said. But their biggest goal, they said, is always to safely return to their children.
They emphasized professionalism, trust, patience and communication as the keys to a successful deployment for a married couple.